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  • The Holly in transition

    New fundraising arm is forming and a search is on for an executive director so project can get back on track
  • An extended intermission for restoration of the Holly Theatre will continue for the near future, but supporters see some glimmer of hope that the curtains could rise once again on Medford's 1930 icon.
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  • An extended intermission for restoration of the Holly Theatre will continue for the near future, but supporters see some glimmer of hope that the curtains could rise once again on Medford's 1930 icon.
    A new fundraising arm called Jefferson Live!, born out of a major upheaval last summer at Jefferson Public Radio, is being formed to take on the Holly project and run the operations of JPR's Cascade Theatre in Redding, Calif.
    "You're giving birth to an organization," said Steve Nelson, JPR Foundation board president.
    "You want to do this right. You don't want to get off willy-nilly and have this thing sputter."
    The foundation has received resumes from 19 candidates for the job of executive director of the fledgling organization. A donor, who has asked to remain anonymous for the time being, has provided office space in Medford.
    As Jefferson Live! comes to fruition, the JPR Foundation and the radio stations have been financially disassembled and put back together, Nelson said.
    The restructuring was a requirement of Southern Oregon University, which owns JPR and wanted more separation between the fundraising foundation and the radio operations.
    Nelson said the board is hoping to find someone who can reignite the fundraising campaign and is encouraged by the caliber of the candidates who've applied for the executive director position.
    On the outside, the Holly Theatre has been restored to its former glory, thanks to an initial campaign to restore the facade and to repair broken trusses supporting the roof.
    The project stalled when Southern Oregon University threatened legal action against foundation board members over a difference of opinion about the structure of the foundation. The dispute led to the termination by SOU of Ron Kramer, who had been executive director of both JPR and the foundation.
    "It's still such an incredible shame the way all that was handled," said Charlie McHenry, a former board member and JPR supporter. "I do not have any faith that SOU will be a good steward of JPR."
    McHenry said Jefferson Live! will face challenges, such as explaining how it is different from the radio stations and different from the JPR Foundation itself.
    A new executive director will have tremendous fundraising hurdles to clear, including raising enough money for the employees of Jefferson Live!, McHenry said.
    McHenry said he was a supporter of JPR's renovation of the Cascade in Redding and also is a supporter of the Holly, believing the two performing arts centers will enhance each other.
    "I'm in the same boat as a lot of people," he said. "I'm waiting for the appointment of a new executive director to determine what direction they will set."
    JPR Executive Director Paul Westhelle said he hopes that several candidates will be called in for interviews over the next few weeks. He will meet next week with a committee formed to rank the candidates.
    At least one candidate from out of the area will be called in for an interview, for a job that will pay from $60,000 to $80,000 annually, depending on experience, Westhelle said. Many local candidates also have applied.
    The new executive director will develop strategies for fundraising for the Holly, but also will analyze the proposed Jefferson Square project at 10th and Front streets that could potentially house new headquarters for the JPR radio stations and offices, Westhelle said.
    John Snider, co-chairman of the Holly Theatre Restoration, said he's encouraged that so many qualified candidates applied for the executive director's position.
    Snider said it has been difficult seeing the Holly's marquee relit, then watching the fundraising campaign come to a halt.
    "I'm frustrated at the lost momentum after the grand relighting ceremony," Snider said.
    He said Jefferson Live! will have greater fundraising challenges as an organization that has more separation from the university and the radio stations.
    Snider said he's still willing to donate his time toward the restoration of the Holly.
    "I still see it as a centerpiece to downtown Medford," he said.
    Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or email dmann@mailtribune.com.
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